[sixties-l] Swinging Sixties blamed for cancer

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: Thu Mar 01 2001 - 14:55:15 EST

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    Swinging Sixties blamed for cancer


    Sunday 25 February 2001

    A sharp rise in rates of pre-cancer of the cervix among young women is
    probably the result of increased sexual activity since the 1960s, according
    to new research.
    The effect of the contraceptive pill and the lessening of the stigma
    attached to pregnancy before marriage have contributed to a threefold
    increase over 10 years, according to Amanda Herbert, who conducted the
    research. Untreated, the suspect cells develop into cancer in one in three
    Dr Herbert, a consultant cytopathologist at St Thomas' Hospital, London,
    said the increase had been masked by a national cervical screening program
    which had reduced cases of cancer and deaths.
    Human papilloma virus is the main cause of cervical cancer and is spread by
    sexual intercourse. Dr Herbert found more than 19,000 cases in 1991
    compared with 5924 in 1981 and 2211 in 1971.
    Screening was available in the 1970s in Britain but was not organised
    nationally. Dr Herbert said some of the increase could be accounted for by
    the greater numbers of young women screened by 1991, but not all of it.
    In the 1991 group, cases peaked among women aged between 25 and 30. In 1981
    the peak was among women four or five years older.
    Dr Herbert said that if the pre-cancer cases had not been picked up by
    screening and treated, cases of cancer of the cervix could have been
    expected to have doubled in older women.
    "These findings tell us that just because cervical cancer is now much less
    common we must not become complacent. It is crucial that women have regular
    tests and do not miss the opportunity to reduce that risk," she said.
    "We have known for a long time that cervical cancer is associated with
    sexual activity. We saw an increase after the First and Second World Wars
    when there was greater opportunity for men and women to get around.
    "Then there was the sexual revolution of the 1970s. I am not saying that it
    is caused by wild promiscuity. One extra partner increases the risk."
    The study, in the journal Cytopathology, said that the cost of national
    screening had recently been questioned but it was important that young
    women continued to be screened.
    There was some indication that the high number of pre-cancers of the cervix
    in young women was starting to fall, possibly because of a greater use of
    condoms for fear of AIDS, Dr Herbert said in the report.
    Anne Szarewski, of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, said: "Without
    screening we would probably be seeing an epidemic. We estimate that by 2025
    screening could prevent 5000 cancers a year."
    The incidence of cervical cancer fell 42 per cent between 1988 and 1997.
    It now causes 1100 deaths a year in England and Wales.

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